Words you won’t hear at Sabattus man’s trial

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AUBURN – The phrases “execution-style” and “gangland-style,” will not be uttered at the upcoming murder trial of Daniel Roberts.

The word “ambush” may be heard during the trial, but only if a judge OKs its use.

The sayings “Thug N,” “See You In Hell!” and “Choose Death” will not appear in court.

The jury – or judge, rather – is still out on the word “kidnapping.”

Roberts spent nearly an hour Tuesday in court, where his attorney, Leonard Sharon, engaged in a serious word game with prosecutors and the judge.

A trial is scheduled to start Monday with jury selection. The two sides were doing some last-minute jockeying for legal positioning on pretrial motions before they deliver opening statements, likely next week.

Roberts is facing a murder charge in the killing of his ex-girlfriend, who was the mother of their then-2-year-old daughter, Savanna. Roberts, 37, admitted shooting Melissa Mendoza, 29, in the back of the head at his Sabattus home on Aug. 15, 2005. He claims he acted in self-defense and was also defending his daughter. The couple was embroiled in a custody dispute.

Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said he had no intention of using the “-style” words when he presents his case. He may seek permission to use the word “ambush” to describe Roberts’ actions leading up to the shooting, but only if the evidence supports that conclusion and the judge gives him the nod.

Likewise, Stokes said he hadn’t planned on showing photos of Roberts’ vanity license plate: “Thug N,” nor the stickers “See you in Hell!” and “Choose death!” affixed to it.

Roberts had told State Police that Mendoza had kidnapped Savanna. But Stokes said Tuesday that defense attorneys shouldn’t be allowed to use the word “kidnapping” to describe Mendoza’s actions because she was never prosecuted on that charge.

Likewise, Stokes is seeking to let the jury know Mendoza reported to a doctor that Roberts had physically abused her before her death. Stokes wants to counter Roberts’ claim that Mendoza was the aggressor the night she was killed. But Sharon argued that there was no legal proof that his client had abused Mendoza nor was he ever prosecuted.

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler said she would rule on that motion, among others, before Monday, but only after she’s had a chance to review written legal arguments.

Both Sharon and Stokes agreed to refrain during opening statements from referring to any conclusions drawn by their experts. Instead, they will wait until later in the trial or at closing arguments to mention those conclusions, but only if their respective experts had already shared their conclusions with the jury.

Stokes also asked whether he could bring two handguns recovered from the crime scene into the courtroom as exhibits. A recent law requires permission from a judge for anybody but a court official to bring a firearm into the courtroom. Stokes promised the guns would not be loaded.

Roberts was seeking permission to interview prospective jurors, but was rebuffed by Wheeler. She said only Roberts’ attorneys could question jurors directly – and only after she did.

Wheeler agreed to let the jury take a road trip to the crime scene. Sharon argued for a visit in the dark, in keeping with the ambiance when Mendoza was killed.

“If it’s 1:30 in the morning, it will be without me,” Wheeler said.

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